My roommate is eight years younger than I am, putting her firmly in the Gen Z category. Although eight years isn’t a huge difference, there are several major events I have memories of that she doesn’t – like 9/11 and, less drastically but still important here in Maine, the Ice Storm of 1998.

The storm of ’98 is, and probably forever will be, my measuring stick for all ice storms. Mention “the Ice Storm of 1998” to my mom, and her lower eyelid will start twitching uncontrollably. Being in charge of one 4-year-old and one 5-year-old for nine days sans electricity, plus open flames in the wood stove, will do that to a woman. (My heart goes out to anyone with small children during this latest power outage.) Compared to that, last weekend wasn’t so bad.

My power went out at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, right in the middle of a movie. (Coincidentally, my brother and I were also in the middle of “Aladdin” when the power went out in the ’98 storm.) I was out of power for 41 hours. Unfortunately, I don’t have a wood stove or a generator. Well, technically I had a generator, but the ripcord (which is probably as old as I am) decided to give up the ghost when I needed it the most. So I had to keep warm the old-fashioned way. We mostly keep dogs for companionship these days, but when the heat cut out, they started serving a very practical purpose. I’ve never been so grateful to have a clingy, 50-pound pit bull before. I also had no shortage of candles, so I lit up a bunch of those, because candles can throw off a small amount of heat. Also, because all of mine are scented, my bedroom ended up smelling like an Enchanted Sunset Pine Cedar Citrus Bergamot Forest Evening.

Drastic winter weather events really bring out the best in Mainers. Except whoever is in charge of planning and communication at Central Maine Power. Once again, it absolutely biffed it. Not only did I have to re-report my outage to its website, my street continued to be labeled “assessing” until the lights came back on. And then said “assessing” for another hour afterward. Having that stupid “assessing” label blinking at me for 41 hours ticked me off even worse than if CMP had put up a note that said, “We can’t get to it until Monday at the earliest.” I don’t know if that’s entirely beyond CMP’s capabilities or if it simply doesn’t want to do it.

Maybe it’s just me, but time feels like it passes differently in a power outage. More slowly. Maybe it’s all the candles; maybe it’s the way that, as it gets darker, it feels like nature is closing in around us and we’re trying to hold it back with our vaguely tamed household wolves and our tiny little flames on string. Humans have lived without electricity for millennia longer than they’ve been able to harness it; I think our bodies understand the ancient rhythms and adapt quite quickly. (This is probably my most woo-woo belief.) Nature was definitely closer in a more literal way, too – the birds have been ignoring my bird feeder for the past few weeks, as the melting snow and seasonal change has given them more fine dining options, but after the ice storm, suddenly my backyard was the neighborhood hot spot! And it’s always so, so beautiful after an ice storm.

The girls and I had some real good walks, both to warm us up and to take in the glass fairyland that the neighborhood had suddenly become. Even when the sun caused the ice to start cracking and falling off leaves and pine needles, it sounded like bells tinkling. Magical. Well, Janey didn’t think it was magical – she thought every large chunk falling from a tree was an incoming drone strike. Karma, on the other hand, had a great time. This winter, she discovered a passion for chewing on big chunks of ice (I think she likes the crunch), so she was in heaven.

When my car got stuck on an ice hump in my driveway, my roommate’s brother came and dragged it out. I’ve never been so happy to see a lifted pickup truck in my life. And while the staff of my local Dunkin’ was busy serving coffee to what appeared to be half the population of Lincoln County, they took the time to offer my dogs several cheese slices. I don’t usually take my dogs through drive-thrus because Janey assumes anyone sticking their hand into my vehicle is trying to carjack me and reacts accordingly. I took them this time so that they could warm up in the car with us, and the staff’s little gesture meant a lot to me. And, of course, local Facebook pages were hopping with power restoration updates in near-real time and offers of assistance to folks who still didn’t have power.

I’m not saying I cried with relief when the power came back on, but I’m not saying my eyeballs were bone-dry. I certainly have found myself being more mindfully grateful for my furnace and my light bulbs for the past few days. I think even my dogs are feeling grateful – now, when she hears the furnace kick on, Karma rushes to the nearest heat vent to lie down on the hot air, to get every bit of it she can.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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